Rain is better than Sleet
March 26, 2009 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Moving to Seattle! I am about to visit Seattle for the first time, with the intention of moving there this summer. Locals, please help me get my bearings?

My best friend and I have run into a dead end here in Cambridge, MA. He has always wanted to live in Seattle, and I have never even visited. This first weekend in April, we will be visiting the city to explore a bit and make sure that I am okay with uprooting all the way across the country. We intend to cram as much neighborhood exploration into three and a half days as possible. The goal is to figure out what neighborhood we want to live in, which will really be what neighborhood is closest to potential jobs and places to buy delicious food.

Oh glorious and friendly Metafilter, do you have any suggestions, tips, job openings, advice, or relevant information that could help a lady out?

Further details:
~We are 24 and 25 years old, but do not like to party or drink much.
~I do not drive, but he will likely have a car. Are there areas that are really close to public transport that also have parking spaces?
~We are both, currently, unemployed. I have an art degree and retail experience. He is a history major who likes to make spreadsheets for fun. We are picky people. I would like to work for a small business, he would like to get past the interview stage.
~We have a cat. From what I can tell, Seattle is much more lenient about having pets than Boston and Cambridge is, is that actually true?
~Money is not really that big of a problem, and we would rather live somewhere nicer than what your typical unemployed out of college mid twenties can afford. Are there areas that aren't suburbs crawling with nuclear families, but also aren't scary industrial parts of town, that ALSO are close to commercial areas?
~I have never really loved *any* city in which I have lived. I would like, very much, to enjoy Seattle. Are there any things you particularly appreciate about it, so I can go into this whole thing with a positive frame of mind?

Thanks so much for all your help!
posted by Mizu to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (28 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Hope you enjoy your stay! Knocking out a few questions...

> areas that are really close to public transport that also have parking spaces?

King County Park & Ride Lot Information

Metro is the primary transit option for Seattle. Many Park & Ride locations are also served by other bus systems like Sound Transit. Two-zone fares (basically from Seattle to any suburb) are $2.25 and rising to $2.50 this summer. The downtown core is a Ride Free Zone.

> Seattle is much more lenient about having pets

This guy tries to answer the question are there more dogs or children in Seattle? I think the cat will feel welcome.
posted by llin at 4:23 PM on March 26, 2009

Lots of information on Seattle neighborhoods in previous questions (etc)

You can certainly get by without a car, but you'll really want to do your bus route research before you choose an apartment.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 4:23 PM on March 26, 2009

Capital Hill within walking distance to Broadway. There seems to be a large range of rent prices in the area.

I appreciate a much more open-minded attitude than what I had experienced living in the mid-west. I love the broad range of people I see every day including but not limited to professionals, hippies, hipsters, emo, goth, and half a dozen other types and some that defy any "type". I love seeing mountains on my commute and when I drive home from work and crest the hill on I-5 (going northwards into the city) my heart swells with how beautiful it looks. I love how I can walk two blocks to the bus and go all over the city and suburbs (although i don't love how it is cheaper for me to drive right now than take the bus). I love that we are getting light rail (soon?) I thoroughly enjoyed walking to downtown with my sister and taking the ferry to and fro just for fun.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 4:24 PM on March 26, 2009

Definitely read through the previous questions. It's been a few years since I moved out of state. I'd like to add, though, that I used to live near the library in Green Lake in Seattle and I absolutely loved it. I recommend you take a walk around Green Lake and check it out. If I remember correctly, you can take exit 171 off I-5 or find bus 316 (express) or 16 (local) from downtown.
- Nice safe neighborhood with restaurants, grocery stores, and shopping within walking distance.
- Express bus (316) to downtown is within walking distance (along Woodlawn Ave), and the bus takes 15-20 mins max to get downtown this way.
- Easy enough to find an apartment that has both a parking space and welcomes pets.
- Minutes from a beautiful lake with lots of friendly people. It's wonderful to just take a walk around the neighborhood, too. Fruit trees along the street, nice little gardens, unique houses, not too much traffic, etc.
- People are friendly and there's a good mix across age groups. Lively during the day, quiet at night.
posted by belau at 4:48 PM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Are there areas that aren't suburbs crawling with nuclear families, but also aren't scary industrial parts of town, that ALSO are close to commercial areas?

This describes a whole lot of the city. I'm sure other people will go into detail about the various neighborhoods; I'll just say that mixed retail/dining/entertainment/residential areas are not at all hard to find. Bus service is generally good (frequent and reliable) throughout the city, better in some areas than others. Like qxntpqbbbqxl said, familiarize yourself with the routes before you go apartment hunting.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:50 PM on March 26, 2009

Previous questions are your friend.

As far as one specific aspect of your question, I have lived in 7 different rentals in 18 years in Seattle, and have never had a problem finding cat-friendly apartments. You will be asked to pay a pet deposit of approximately $250 to cover potential damage/cleaning costs. It is more difficult to find dog-friendly apartments; many rentals say "no dogs" (although it may be negotiable depending on the landlord), or have a weight limit for dogs.

When researching public transit, make sure to look at the schedule as well as the route map. You want a route that has frequent trips (many don't),
posted by matildaben at 4:52 PM on March 26, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks everybody for all your help! I have sort of been working my way through previous questions, but figured I should go ahead and ask anyway, since cities always change.

Thank you especially for giving me confidence about the whole cat thing. If anybody else has more stuff to add, please keep them coming! I am leaving for my trip on the 2nd of April, so until then, I am all ears.
posted by Mizu at 5:33 PM on March 26, 2009

Best answer: Capitol Hill is where the hip young things live, is centrally located, and is one of the two or three places in town with excellent transit connections. However, it's pricey (by Seattle standards -- I think Seattle's a bit cheaper than Boston on the whole), and finding parking that you don't have to pay extra for might be problematic. YMMV. For my part, I like it because it's one of the few parts of Seattle that sorta feels like an east coast city -- densely built up, older buildings, etc. etc.

I'd warn you off from the University District unless you find an apartment you know is fantastic -- I've known people to have bad experiences with slumlord-type landlords there. Other than that, though, I am a big, big, big evangelist for the neighborhoods just north of the ship canal -- Fremont, Wallingford, and Ballard. Ballard is probably the most exciting of the three, though sadly it also has the lamest bus connections -- outside of commuter hours the bus to downtown is routed through Queen Anne, which means it's slow and crowded. Fremont has express buses that run down Aurora, Wallingford, if you live on the side near the U district, has superexpress buses that you can catch at a station beside I-5. These buses are magical. _Magical_!

Beacon Hill is a frequently overlooked neighborhood, I think. Decent transit, cheaper rents than most other nice neighborhoods, and as far as I can tell it's one of the few places in Seattle that's genuinely racially integrated (Seattle talks the talk better than it walks the walk on that front, sadly). Nothing going on the nightlife front there, but it sounds like that's not what you're looking for.

Good luck! For whatever it's worth, everyone I've met who's moved here from Boston has loved it -- said they felt at home, except here the weather doesn't try to kill you.[1]

[1]: This is technically not true. Whereas east coast weather tries to kill you through extremes of heat and cold, Seattle weather tries to kill you through boredom. "Oh, mid-40s, overcast, chance of drizzle... gosh, just like the last five months..."[a]
[a]: Which reminds me; don't rent a basement apartment in Ballard or Fremont, or anywhere else near the ship canal. Just... just don't. The dampness, the moldiness... it will destroy your soul...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:17 PM on March 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Side note on Ballard: I did a census a few months ago, and there are IIRC 12 coffee shops within a five block radius of my apartment. This, this I will miss when I move...
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:20 PM on March 26, 2009

The hip kids live in Capitol Hill (broad generalization). I'm a bit older and enjoyed Queen Anne much more. Ballard and Fremont are also nice.

What I like about Seattle is that there are many "downtowns." Top of Queen Anne has its little area, Lower Queen Anne, Broadway, Fremont - You can do your shopping and hanging out without having to go where everyone else in the whole city is doing the same thing, or a suburban shopping mall.
posted by ctmf at 7:05 PM on March 26, 2009

With all due respect to You Can't Tip a Buick, the neighborhoods south of downtown are also terrific and weirdly off the radar to most people north of downtown. The general understanding is that this absence of acknowledgement that anything exists between the International District (south edge of Downtown) and Renton (next town the the south) is a bizarre vestige of Seattle's unacknowledged racism. However, if you have brown skin of any shade, or if you are white and largely over that shit, the south end is a great place to be, and far less expensive than Capitol Hill or any neighborhoods north of the ship canal.

Beacon Hill is south of downtown, and as he said, is great and very close to downtown. The Columbia City neighborhood (business association site, Wikipedia) is not much farther from downtown but beats Beacon hands-down in terms of walkability in the business district, number of parks, and access to the amazing Olmsted-designed stretched of undeveloped lakeshore, including the real gem that is Seward Park (old growth forest! bald eagle nest!). CC has a 3-screen movie theater, a live theater, several terrific restaurants, a dive bar and a few yuppie bars, an African-American private social club, bookstore, kid-stuff stores, one of the very best bakeries in the city, a third-generation butcher, etc, etc.

It may not surprise you to learn that I've lived in CC 10 years and love it. I encourage you to check it out when you survey the town!
posted by Sublimity at 7:29 PM on March 26, 2009 [3 favorites]

Ballard, Queen Anne, Fremont, Greenlake, Capitol Hill are all good neighborhoods that you can easily live in without a car. I lived in Seattle for seven years -- four years in Queen Anne, three years in Ballard -- and very rarely used my car. I lived in the University District for a month, before I ran screaming for Ballard. Do not live in the U-District. Wallingford is OK, seems like it would be pretty central, but the bus service is not great to/from there. Magnolia is a long bus ride from anywhere, as are Lake City (which also apparently has a lot of gang activity lately), Northgate, Sand Point, and Wedgwood. Where you live in relation to where you work matters, as there are some bus routes that are really frequent and fast (like Eastlake to the U-District) and some that are such a pain that it's not worth it (like, don't live in Fremont and work in Capitol Hill or vice versa).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 7:42 PM on March 26, 2009

I hate to be the naysayer here but I say don't move to Seattle! Or at least spend a bit of time here before you do decide to move. I have lived in Seattle for 10+ years.

I say this for several reasons:

1) It's terribly expensive, highly-taxed, and not business friendly (and getting worse)
2) The traffic is awful
3) The local government is ineffective, spineless, and unimaginative

IMO, these huge factors far outweigh the positives. YMMV of course, but I just wanted to bring a bit of reality to what is a pretty big decision. And yes, I plan to move soon.

If you have to move here, I would recommend checking out the West Seattle area.

Good luck.
posted by karizma at 8:36 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

I lived in Seattle (Capitol Hill area) for two years in the mid-1990's. Seattle is a cute place to visit, but I'd never live there again. For me it was the lack of sunshine and monotonous gray rain for much of the year that made Seattle unlivable (And I'm a native Chicagoan--no wimp when it comes to horrific weather). Five months of near-constant rain is not dreamy and romantic….it might drive you out of your skull. Also, Seattle (in my experience and in the mid-1990’s) was not an urbane or “wordly” city. If you enjoy the diversity and anonymity of large eastern cities, you may find Seattle, as I did, homogenized and, at times, insufferably quaint. YMMV.
posted by applemeat at 9:53 PM on March 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Well, okay, it is fine if you didn't like the city, but I *am* visiting it, and *most likely* moving there, so if you have found okay solutions to handle your issues with the city, or have found any bright spots in your otherwise horrid experience, those would be the things to share, on this question. I appreciate that you want me to make the right decision in a realistic light, but this question is about how best to explore the city for myself in my brief visit there, to *get* that realistic impression.

I really despise the Boston and Cambridge area right now, so I am definitely not looking to move to a similar location. Diversity is basically the only thing this place has got going for it, to me. I need to get OUT of here, and my rich, generous, loving best friend has always wanted to live in Seattle, so I am tagging along by his invitation, and I would like to make the best of it.

Additionally, I collect umbrellas.
posted by Mizu at 11:42 PM on March 26, 2009

1) It's terribly expensive, highly-taxed, and not business friendly (and getting worse)
2) The traffic is awful
3) The local government is ineffective, spineless, and unimaginative

In other words, it's Boston with mountains, trees, and Orcas. Bonus: you're just in time to relive the Big Dig all over again. Welcome home!

First of all, you will meet other--possibly many--Bostonians in Seattle. I've spent 48 hours in Boston, but I know 10, maybe a dozen, Bostonians living here; three are my closest friends. None knew each other before I became their homing beacon. All love life in the Northwest and have no plans of leaving, save regular visits back east.

Hit all the neighborhoods listed above.

If you can squeeze in a visit to Snoqualmie Pass during your visit, go. It's really amazing moving from the mild, moist climate at sea level to deep snowfall in rugged mountains in just a 50 minute drive.

When you're here, live in the northwest, not just in Seattle. Spend time outdoors. Hike the Cascades/Olympics. Wade in the Pacific Ocean (aka 'going out for a good foot numbing'). Play in the snow. Kayak Lake Union. Visit the San Juan Islands. Explore Oregon.

Oh, and Ride the Duck.
posted by prinado at 1:26 AM on March 27, 2009

People have already mentioned Beacon Hill, so I will add one thing about it -- the light rail line that runs through North Beacon Hill opens this summer! So transit will improve -- and if you live in North Beacon Hill, it's already good. Beacon Hill is very big -- actually a conglomeration of several smaller neighborhoods, so if you want a location near the light rail station you want North Beacon. There are parts further south that are walkable to some of the other stations though, which are in Rainier Valley.

There doesn't seem yet to be a huge demand for housing because of the light rail, so if you get here before July you might still find something cheap. :)

Columbia City is more trendy and gentrifying more rapidly, so it's getting more expensive. Beacon Hill is a bit more sleepy, but does have many of its own services and attractions, and is only a few minutes from anywhere. It's also just up the hill from the tasty, tasty food in the International District, and from the bars and hipster hangouts of Georgetown. If you like sports, it's only a few minutes from the stadiums, and the train will take you right to them once it opens. No parking hassle! (Right now, we just hop a bus whenever we go to a Mariners game... it's really only a few minutes even by bus and walking from Jackson to Safeco Field.)

Capitol Hill is fun, but you mentioned wanting parking spaces... there aren't many of those on Capitol Hill, at least, not in the denser parts. Parking on Beacon Hill is still plentiful in most places.
posted by litlnemo at 4:50 AM on March 27, 2009

Oh, you might find it interesting to browse some of Seattle's neighborhood blogs. (Full disclosure: I co-edit one of the blogs listed in that post. Bet you can guess which one!) Seattle has a ton of great neighborhood blogs that will give you a taste of what's going on in the various neighborhoods.
posted by litlnemo at 4:55 AM on March 27, 2009

I have a friend who did this. The cool things he has maintained a blog about his entire experience. It might be worth you checking out, especially the older stuff. It's called Westward.
posted by te1contar at 6:14 AM on March 27, 2009

Try Georgetown. Very hip (the Roller Derby league hangs out there) and still affordable. Capitol Hill is over.
posted by matildaben at 7:19 AM on March 27, 2009 [1 favorite]

"Downtown" Queen Anne is a great 'hood.
posted by jgirl at 7:33 AM on March 27, 2009

litlnemo, my bro's blog is on your list. He's warned me about moving there because it's "provincial" -- hard to break into because people have lived there all of their lives. Parties are like a UW/SeattleU/etc. reunion.
posted by jgirl at 7:38 AM on March 27, 2009

Eh, that's a whole 'nother topic. But I wouldn't say parties are like that in my experience -- Seattle has had such an influx of people that if often seems to me that most of the people I meet are from somewhere else these days. Depends on the crowd, I guess. Seattle, however, is known for being a bit cold and distant -- friendly enough, but a bit stand-offish. Introverted. I have joked before that the city has a municipal case of Asperger's: smart, geekish, not very socially adept, won't make eye contact. It doesn't bother me because my family has been here since the 19th century, so it's my native culture. ;) But it bothers some people who are used to a more outgoing culture.
posted by litlnemo at 1:27 PM on March 27, 2009 [2 favorites]

the city has a municipal case of Asperger's: smart, geekish, not very socially adept, won't make eye contact.

This is kind of brilliant.

While I totally adore Seattle (and in fact am likely to make a move the other direction in the summer, which breaks my heart--hey Mizu, want to rent my house?) I think there is some truth to that statement. Also check out the Uptight Seattleite from the Seattle Weekly for another characterization that hits a little too close to home around here!
posted by Sublimity at 6:47 PM on March 27, 2009

I just moved here (six weeks?) and I love it. It feels like the whole city has my personality (which means I agree with litlnemo) except that people have been so friendly I am overwhelmed and have ended up ignoring some of them because I can only know so many people at once.

I've been pretty slack about exploring - I find that I need a purpose to a trip to make me pay attention. Things worth finding
-Cupcake Royale in Ballard
-the shoreline in Magnuson Park (too far away to live, but a great park)
-Twice Sold Tales in Capitol Hill
-Stella's cafe on 1st Av. For a latte, in my case, but the owners are way friendly and apparently the sandwiches are awesome as well.
-Pike Place Market. It's just a market...but then I did a scavenger hunt through it with Meetup.com, and it was awesome.

Personally I am about to move into an apartment in Capitol Hill, which is so perfect in location, new housemate, etc that I grin maniacally thinking of it (I don't drive, and it's walking distance to the city, the bus to work, the buses everywhere else, cafes, grocery..). Most of the apartments I looked at around Capitol Hill/Downtown/Belltown did have parking available, usually for an extra $100/month, or sometimes one free space. I would recommend Capitol Hill. Trawl craigslist, or for more area-focussed search try housingmaps.com (a google maps/craigslist mashup). And it seems like everybody here has a pet, in my temporary apartment I regularly share the elevator with somebody and their dog.

Feel free to memail me for anything.
posted by jacalata at 7:15 PM on March 27, 2009


West Seattle! Give it a shot, you might like it. 15/20 minutes from downtown by bus, not as expensive as other neighborhoods, and has the best sushi place in the Northwest
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 12:01 PM on March 30, 2009

Response by poster: Hey guys! I dunno that anybody is still reading, but I had a GREAT time on my visit! I fell in love with Fremont, just like every other person in the universe who knows me told me I would do.
If you are curious, here is my huge livejournal post with pictures and rambling: http://mizufae.livejournal.com/499009.html

I loved all the ravens. I really want to make friends, so if anybody is local, you might be getting memail from me or something. Is there a culinary adventurers sort of club, maybe? That would be the best. Thanks everyone!
posted by Mizu at 12:26 AM on April 9, 2009

You live in the building with the PCC? Lucky dog! I drive into the city just to go there sometimes. Great grocery store.

Welcome to the NW!
posted by ctmf at 2:41 AM on April 9, 2009

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